The Only Thing More Important Than Hiring Superstars.

I believe that one of the best ways to achieve success is to focus on hiring a stellar team of superstars — the best of the best.

In her TED talk entitled “Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work”, Margaret Heffernan challenges us to also consider how social cohesion leads to the best results. The Ted talk is embedded below.

She starts by describing a study that compared the productivity of two different chicken groups: an average flock, verses a flock hand picked for being the most productive egg layers (the SuperChickens.) After 6 generations, the average flock increased in overall productivity, while in the second flock all but three were dead. They had pecked the rest to death. The individual productive chickens only achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

This sounds all too familiar to me, particularly when I remember my experiences at large companies. I noticed that individual employees were extremely unproductive because too much energy was spent protecting their ideas, teams or their positions. I often wondered why these employees treated colleagues like competitors, when we all worked at the same company, often on the same project. Meanwhile, our real competitors who were smaller startups with cohesive teams, were able to accomplish “so much, in so little time, with so few resources.”

Have you witnessed this? Is this your company? Is this your life?

“If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live.”

I believe that creating an antagonistic environment where employees treat colleagues like competitors also leads to little satisfaction. I’m motivated by seeing passionate people reach excellence together and witnessing teams reach their highest potential.

Perhaps rivalry and antagonistic competition in the workplace should be replaced by social capital — the bonds, loyalty, and trust employees develop between each other. What matters is the mortar, not just the bricks.

“For decades, we’ve tried to motivate people with money, even though we’ve got a vast amount of research that shows that money erodes social connectedness. Now, we need to let people motivate each other.”

People flourish and motivate each other in an environment of helpfulness. A workplace where everyone is a giver and a recipient of help, no matter what your role or position. An environment where subject matter expertise and a posture of teaching and sharing knowledge is encouraged.

“Companies don’t have ideas, only people do.”
“We need to redefine leadership as an activity in which conditions are created in which everyone can do their most courageous thinking together.”
“Bringing out the best in others is how we find the best in ourselves”

It’s through our empathy, trust, loyalty, and valuing individual perspectives, not one over any other, that we can reach our potential and accomplish things beyond our wildest expectations.

Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work. By Margaret Heffernan
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